Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Web-Based Search Tasks for Policy Workers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We adapt previous literature on search tasks for developing a domain-specific search engine that supports the search tasks of policy workers. To characterise the search tasks we conducted two rounds of interviews with policy workers at the municipality of Utrecht, and found that they face different challenges depending on the complexity of the task. During simple tasks, policy workers face information overload and time pressures, especially during web-based searches. For complex tasks, users prefer finding domain experts within their organisation to obtain the necessary information, which requires a different type of search functionality. To support simple tasks, we developed a web search engine that indexes web pages from authoritative sources only. We tested the hypothesis that users prefer expert search over web search for complex tasks and found that supporting complex tasks requires integrating functionality that enables finding internal experts within the broader web search engine. We constructed representative tasks to evaluate the proposed system’s effectiveness and efficiency, and found that it improved user performance. The search functionality developed could be standardised for use by policy workers in different municipalities within the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Article number371
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • web-based search
  • search tasks
  • policy workers
  • municipality
  • professional search
  • e-government


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